Three Riders Recovered, Search Continues for Additional Two on Kuskokwim


Searchers in Bethel have saved three of five persons who went through the thin ice on two ATVs on the Kuskokwim River on Sunday night, troopers are reporting.

AST was notified at 8:20 pm on Sunday night that five individuals on two four-wheelers had gone through the thin ice at the upper end of Church Slough on the Kuskokwim River and rescue efforts convened.

It took several hours, but three of those hypothermic riders were plucked from the icy waters and transported to the Bethel hospital for treatment of hypothermia.

The search for the remaining two riders will commence this morning along the slough.

Due to extremely hazardous conditions, AST is highly recommending that all river travel come to a halt due to the warm weather and the resulting thin ice. 

The incident occurred as the Cama’i Dance Festival weekend was coming to a close. Travel was extremely heavy along the river as attendees flocked to Bethel.

Bethel Search and Rescue had earlier warned that the river was losing three-quarters of a foot of ice a day with the warming weather and had closed the river to truck travel last weekend. ATV riders were advised to use “extreme caution,” especially in the Straight, Napakiak, and Church Slough areas as the ice continued to thin, rot. and channels opened up.

The ice has been extremely difficult to judge as the YK Delta area encountered its warmest winter and March month in recorded history. Temperatures are expected to rise into the fifties in the coming week.

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Next of kin notifications are pending.

No names of the victims involved as yet have been released.